Here’s the thing about the Mavericks start this year — they haven’t lost to a bad team yet (well, Indiana better get their act together). So far they’ve taken care of business against the Lakers and Bucks and if they can keep up beating bad teams their record can even out after the disastrous 0-5 start.
That’s good because the New York Knicks are next on the docket and they are also a bad team. Sorry Derrick Rose, you are not on a super team.
The Mavericks have a shot at grabbing their third win because the Knicks have been out of sorts trying to get their new parts functioning properly. Dirk Nowitzki might return to the lineup and Harrison Barnes is another big scoring night away from putting the fear of god into opposing NBA defenses.
New York has a lot of interesting pieces that can give Dallas trouble though. Here’s how the Mavs can get to 3-6.
Use small-ball power to punish a bad Knicks defense
The Knicks still roll out a traditional starting lineup, with Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Joakim Noah filling out the typical front court spots.
Their starting lineup has been terrible on defense though, giving up 108.9 point per 100 possessions according to NBA.com. Noah is a shell of his former self and Anthony is getting older and slower. Combine that with Derrick Rose not as quick as his pre-surgeries self and that’s not a lot of speed to defend in space with the starting five.
If Dirk isn’t back, Harrison Barnes should punish the Knicks bigger and slower-footed front court. Porzingis is much more effective defender at the five and Barnes should be able to lure him away from the rim and hopefully open up some driving lanes for the Mavs guards.
Keep a body on Porzingis
New York might be bad right now (third worst net rating in the league) but Porzingis has been fantastic overall. There was a worry the Knicks might quell him from shooting so much from the outside, but he’s been bombing away at a 39.6 percent clip beyond the arc on over five attempts a game.
You’d think having a smaller lineup could help keep the Mavs closer to opposing teams’ shooters but the Mavs have the worst 3-point defense in the NBA. If they let Porzingis rain pick and pop jumpers at will, it’ll just empower New York’s so-so guards to get closer and closer to the rack. Cut off the head of the snake here.
Cut off dribble penetration
Part of the reason the Mavs have a terrible 3-point defense is because they can’t keep guards from getting into the paint. Teams have been drive-and-kicking the Mavs to death in the pick and roll.
Rose has lost about five-steps from his Chicago peak. Courtney Lee is great, but he’s more of a spot-up, mid-range guy. Brandon Jennings hasn’t looked the same since his Achilles injury. New York just doesn’t have a lot of guards that can consistently get to the rim.
Rose can still do it though, despite his injuries, so the Mavs have to keep him and the rest of the Knicks guards out of the paint. Make New York force-feed Anthony in the post where you would hope the combo of Barnes, Wes Matthews, Dorian Finney-Smith and Justin Anderson can limit his damage. Limit the ball-movement, make Noah an offensive liability and don’t let Rose look like 2010 Rose.
How to watch
Those in the DFW area can catch the game on Fox Sports Southwest through cable and various streaming services. Otherwise, go to League Pass. Game tips off at 6:30 p.m. central time.